A Tribute to Stewart Valdar (1917 - 2007)


Colin Jermy, author of these web pages, with Stewart Valdar

Begin any research into the Jermy family and one name will inevitably appear - Stewart Valdar - author of the booklet A Brief History of The Jermy Family of Norfolk & Suffolk, and the primary researcher of the Jermy surname and its variants. He started researching the family in the early 1950's and continued his quest for more than 50 years. His booklet, originally privately published in 1958, and later in 1976, was supposed to be the forerunner of a much larger work encompassing all the research that he had collected. Alas, despite being started on a number of occasions, this work was never completed.

His life-long interest in the family was because his family belonged to the Jermy family that originated in the northwest of Norfolk in the villages of Tilney All Saints and Clenchwarton. Stewart's great grandfather was William Jermay, master blacksmith of Clenchwarton. His son Robert, a landscape gardener, moved to Hendon, NW London around 1883, and had his children christened with the surname Germany - one of the many variants used by the Jermy family. Robert's second son Alfred Germany started his career as a tradesman's clerk, but wanted to be a journalist and author. In order to launch himself as a writer he looked around for a suitable nom-de-plume and discovered an early science fiction book, Valdar the Oft-born by George Griffith. Considering himself (at the age of 23) a literary lion, he unofficially adopted the name Lionel Valdar. The name first appeared in print in January 1910, and all his children were registered with the Valdar surname - Stewart Valdar being the second of seven children.

Stewart started his genealogical research by writing to all the local newspapers in East Anglia and beyond, requesting information about the Jermy families then living. He also wrote an article entitled The Jermy Millions in the Eastern Daily Press during April 1955. This brought a rapid response The Jermy Pence from Philip Jermy Gwyn, a descendant of Isaac Jermy, Recorder of Norwich, who was murdered by James Blomfield Rush in November 1848. A friendship was begun between the two correspondents, which helped to expand the knowledge of the later Jermy and Preston families.

He spent many long hours searching the holdings of all the archives in London and East Anglia. This was in the days long before indexes, digital copies, or indeed any copies of the records - he searched through the originals, page by page, hoping to find mention of the Jermy name in census returns, parish records, wills, deeds, and every other available resource. Before photocopiers were available everything was painstakingly transcribed and typed up. Every fact and reference was written up and filed away in a wallet file dedicated to a specific chapter of the book on the history of the Jermy family. These, together with a book collection of relevant reference volumes were built up to create a very large body of information that he was only too happy to consult in order to help other researchers into the family.

Stewart was good enough to give me his research materials, and I am endeavouring to get them into a digital format and combine them with the results of my own research into the Jermy family and put them on this web site. Whether there is a book in it remains to be seen!


Born in January 1917, Stewart was the second of seven children born to Fleet Street journalist, Lionel Valdar. Stewart began his working life as a draughtsman in jobs ranging from the design of light fittings to Wellington bombers during the second world war. He changed tack in the 1950's and followed his journalist father by joining and later becoming editor of two local newspapers in north London - the Hampstead News and the Marylebone Record. He did freelance reporting for the nationals as "Valdar of Hampstead" and then sub-edited at the Daily Herald and the Sunday Times. After a brief period in public relations in 1964 he joined the UK Press Gazette. During his 23 years there he introduced the News Contacts Directory and the series of News Briefings, all aimed at supporting the role of journalists.

Stewart Valdar was not just a man of the pen. He pursued his genealogical interests for some 50 years, took part in archaeological digs around the country, was a leading light in Hampstead Local History Society, an active member of a folk singing club and an accomplished artist. He also took the opportunity to climb to the top of Nelson’s Column in 1968, when it was being cleaned, using 16 10-foot ladders lashed to its length.

He was a lifelong socialist. During the late 1930's and 1940's he was an active member of the Young Communist League and became a shop steward while working in Birmingham and London. Later he, like many other idealistic socialists in the UK, moved away from communism towards socialism, joining the Labour Party. However, he continued to campaign passionately against imperialism in its old and new forms - military aggression, and racism on a global front, as well as injustices on a local scale.

He combined his journalistic skills and campaigning passion through his home-produced Stewart’s News Round, circulated monthly for some 13 years to a dedicated readership of more than 50 family, friends and colleagues, including two MP's.

Stewart Valdar died in June 2007, aged 90, and is survived by his wife Jean, four children, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Sources:
13 June 2007. Obituary - Stewart Valdar. Press Gazette.co.uk
14 June 2007. Obituary - Valdar of Hampstead – Campaigning Journalist. Camden New Journal
5 July 2007. Obituary - Stewart Valdar. Camden New Journal
29 October 2007. Obituary - Stewart Valdar. The Guardian